Something I have long found intriguing: In the opening chapter of his book, Holiness, J.C. Ryle dedicates his entire attention to the subject of Sin. At first I wondered why that was. Eventually I realized that we cannot grow in holiness unless we understand our very real condition and the effects it has on us.
Just what is sin, though?
The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines it this way:
Sin is any lack of conformity to, or transgression of, the Law of God
According to Richard Trench’s Synonyms of the New Testament, Sin is decribed in the Bible as having at least eight different aspects:
- Missing the Mark or Aim; Falling Short
- Passing Over or Transgressing a Line
- Disobedience to a Voice
- Falling When One Should Have Stood Upright
- Ignorance of What One Should Have Known
- Diminishing of that which Should Have Been Rendered in Full
- Non-observance of a Law
- Discord in the Harmonies of God’s Universe.
That last one is also described by Cornelius Plantinga as “A Violation of Shalom”. (See: Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be.)
Understanding our condition of sin is as important to our overcoming it and growing in holiness as it is for those with some form of cancer to understand their condition and its effects so they know how to treat it and beat it. My father-in-law, while fighting a rare lymphoma, used to say: “Be as nasty to your cancer as your cancer is to you.” Not only is that good advice for cancer patients, but it is good advice applied to those of us who are infected by sin. This is known as “mortifying” our sin or “dying” to sin.